Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Pony book diversions

It's raining again. Really raining this time. Pouring with rain. The bit of roof which sometimes leaks has its first drip poised to fall. It's rained every day now for about the last three weeks and the forecast ahead is for more of it as far as the eye can see. I don't think I'm the only one who is feeling a little grumpy even though we are not allowed to be grumpy because we are Officially In Drought and Goodness Knows the Earth Needs It.

So I'm going into regression today with the remnants of my once reasonably substantial collection of pony books. It is a day for retiring under the duvet with an abandoned yearling rescued from the knacker's yard for a guinea to nurse back to health and win a show jumping cup. I'm going to make a mug of tea and then be schooled in my pony club C test by a retired Major in sticky out breeches and pray that the mane plaits don't fall out.

These are not books I EVER forsee sharing with the Fellow Reviewers. sigh. They're tolerant but not that tolerant.

The Pullein-Thompson sisters, Josephine, Christine and Diana and their mother Joanna Cannan (bf of Georgette Heyer!- Best Ever Comfort Read Writers United! I heart them.) were almost exclusively responsible for my reading matter between the ages of 9 and 11, with occasional diversions into Ruby Ferguson's 'Jill' pony books and ex-show jumper Pat Smythe's exciting 'Three Jays' series. There have probably been more worthy and nourishing reading periods in my life but none where I learn't more about etiquette on the hunting field or the differences between an oxer and a brush fence.

Whilst two of the formidable Pullein-Thompson sisters I am glad to see are still alive and were still writing and being published into the 1990s, I think it's fair to say that the Golden Age of the horse book was the 1940s,50s and 60s. In their later books they appear a little uncomfortably forced into concessions to our (tut and sigh) changing times. Urban Comprehensives with attached riding clubs are thin on the ground in my experience.

The plots of the earlier books tend to operate along the lines of large horse-loving, noble but poor family; normally children of distant and conveniently preoccupied artist parents, who must share their scruffy but oh-so- loved ponies meet rich (between the lines nouveau riche- euch!), snobbish child with groom and 'perfect' show horse who will find redemption for those crimes by being humiliated at either pony club camp, village show or on the hunting field. Sometimes there's some bad, horse stealing gypsies. There's also always an ex-army Master of Hounds to dispense horsey wisdom and fatherly advice about proper leg position when jumping. The worst thing that can happen is laminitis if you let your pony eat too much rich grass.

How I loved them and greedily hoovered up all their horsey wisdom ready for the day when I too should encounter an escaping Arab mare on the streets of Cambridge and be allowed to keep her in gratitude for putting out a barn fire or rescuing her foal. I'm still waiting.

Because it's raining I'm going to treat you to the last page of 'Pony Jobs for Jill' by Ruby Ferguson. The last book in a series of six books which begins with 'Jill and the Perfect Pony' and continues with 'Jill has two Ponies' (you see the pattern). Get a warm drink, a biscuit and enjoy the nostalgia of what used to count as proper reading for girls.

"'It's just these pony jobs,' I explained. "They always turn out unexpected. But this one's all over now, and we're going home tomorrow."
"And we don't know what we'll do next," said Ann sadly. "You see, our mothers expect us to do something with a future in it. We're getting rather old now."
Captain Cholly-Sawcutt looked serious.
"Yes, you are. Too old to play around any more. You've had lots of fun and I agree with your mothers it's high time you settled down."
"But what are we going to do?" I asked. "Because we don't know."
"I'll tell you what you're going to do," he said. "You're going to get yourselves seriously trained for some proper job, and you're going to keep up your riding for a hobby. You'll always enjoy it, but you can't be kids for ever, playing around with your ponies. Now you two get back to Chatton and tell your mothers what I say, and jolly good luck with whatever profession you take up. Agreed?"
"I do think you're right," I said. "And whatever Mummy suggests I'll get down to it. I'll learn typing and shorthand and French and German."
"So will I," said Ann. "It's a deal. This is our very last fling, and now we're going to be grown up."
"Coo!" I said. "I feel as if I was secretary to the Prime Minister already. Let's go and have another ice to celebrate."'

Secretary to the Prime Minister- oh my giddy heights!

My Precious
 Loan endorsement

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